Physical therapy plays an essential part in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptom management. Benefits of physical therapy for people with MS include regaining lost function, improving the body’s overall strength, and preventing the worsening of symptoms over time.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, generally progressive disease that usually affects young adults. There are about 400,000 people in the United States and 2.5 million people worldwide who have been diagnosed with MS, and its effects vary widely.
Although no known cure exists, MS can be successfully controlled with physical therapy for MS symptoms, rehabilitation, and therapeutic management. Physical therapists help people with MS maintain and regain their general fitness, overall body strength, and flexibility.
Physical therapists are experts in movement, improving the quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement.
You can contact a physical therapist directly for an evaluation.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system. The body’s immune system begins to attack the myelin, the protective covering of nerves.
Myelin allows us to move by conducting electrical signals through the nerves. When myelin is damaged, scar tissue forms and the electrical signals from the brain are disrupted. Fatigue, pain, and impaired coordination are the symptoms associated with this disruption.
Today, there are four recognized types of MS. The MS type determines the pattern of MS throughout a patient’s life, which vary from person to person and can be unpredictable.
As well as the main types of multiple sclerosis (relapsing remitting MS or rrms, secondary progressive MS or spms, and primary progressive MS or ppms), doctors and researchers might use other words to describe it. They may say that MS is one of the following: active, not active, with progression, without progression.
In the years before they’re diagnosed with MS, it’s possible that some people may get a diagnosis of one of two syndromes. These are clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) and radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS).
The focus of treatment for MS is to slow down the progression of the disease, as there is no cure for MS. Physical therapy is vital for the treatment of the stages of MS.
Symptoms of MS may include:
- Fatigue that does not go away with rest.
- Difficulty walking and problems with balance.
- Stiffness and spasms or a feeling of heaviness in your legs or arms.
- Bladder and/or bowel problems, such as urgency or leaking.
- Sexual dysfunction, such as less sensation, dryness, less desire, and trouble reaching orgasm.
- Memory and thinking problems.
- Pain and other unpleasant sensations.
- Emotional or mood problems, including depression and apathy.
- Vision problems, such as control of eye movements, seeing double, and blurry vision.
- Dizziness or vertigo.
- Speech and swallowing problems.
Physical Therapy and MS Stages
At the Time of Diagnosis
Initially, physical therapy usually involves:
- Learning how to use devices and techniques to help keep you safe and independent
- Develop flexibility and strength to prevent speed of decline as the condition improves
- Establish baseline measurements for gait, balance, and strength so your therapist knows the best way to help you in the future….developing a trusting relationship with a movement specialist is vital!
A physical examination at this time will also be essential to:
- Discuss your concerns about home safety, fall risks, and ADL modifications
- Identify specific areas for improvement.
From there, the physical therapist will work with the MS patient to set realistic goals and ways to attain those goals.
Research studies have found that people in the early stages of MS may experience changes in their walking ability, balance, and breathing. If ignored, these early signs can lead to further disability.
When someone receives a diagnosis of MS, the best option is to begin physical therapy right away to help improve any mild challenges, and possibly slow down the progression of the symptoms of the disease.
While in Remission
Physical therapy plays a passive role when the MS patient is not having a relapse or is in remission. Some patients check in with their physical therapist every few months, ensuring the appropriateness of their exercise program, improve quality of life, and note issues as they arise.
Consistency with any workout program is essential to improving physical functioning and building strength during these remission periods.
At the time of a Relapse
As soon as a relapse begins, the physical therapist focuses on regaining physical function and maintaining function during the relapse period. This varies significantly from patient to patient, depending on the patient’s needs, such as physical therapy addressing basic tasks, including cooking and walking.
When the physical therapist has a baseline, they can compare the current physical examination to the initial assessment to structure a therapeutic regimen to get the patient back to optimal functioning.
Progressive Phase of MS
At this stage, physical therapy focuses on physical activities and exercise. Sometimes, patients need stability and mobility equipment, such as a shower bar or cane.
People with advanced MS may have more difficulty with movement. Patients may need to rely on the assistance of another person or other mobility equipment. The physical therapist adapts the therapeutic regimen to address the patient’s specific limitations.
Exercises at this stage include those that help to increase the range of motion, keep the core stable, and provide easy ways to stretch.
Making a Treatment Plan
Each person with MS needs to work directly with their physical therapist soon after diagnosis. This way, the physical therapist can monitor disease progression and recommend physical therapy.
The treatment plan focuses on the specific areas of movement a person has difficulty with. The physical therapist will modify it over time if the person’s condition changes.
MS is a progressive condition that affects the body in many ways. Physical therapy is vital in improving physical function while strengthening the body.
By working with a physical therapist, patients with MS generally see improvements in bodily functions and a reduction in some symptoms, such as pain and fatigue.Contact Synergy Physical Therapy and Wellness today to schedule your stress free appointment!